BU professor defends his harsh review of Alix Ohlin books

Negative reviews are not uncommon in The New York Times Book Review, but some people who read BU professor William Giraldi’s critique Sunday of two books by Alix Ohlin were surprised — and upset — by the ferocity of his attack. Many tsk tsk’d Giraldi (inset) on Twitter, questioning his tone and accusing him of needlessly abusing Ohlin. (Giraldi skewers the author relentlessly for “nonsense clichés,” language “that limps onto the page proudly indifferent to pitch or vigor” and is “intellectually inert, emotionally untrue and lyrically asleep.”) Writing on Salon.com, J. Robert Lennon, a critic who knows a thing or two about being negative, took issue with Giraldi’s review, calling it “horrifyingly aggressive, written in a sneering tone rarely seen in the (New York Times Book Review.)” Tuesday, we called Giraldi to see if he regrets using fangs instead of teeth in his review. Hardly. “There’s a rabid misconception out there that I attacked an author. I did not. I attacked a book. There’s a huge difference,” said Giraldi, who lives in Cambridge. “It was an attack on laziness, on the ubiquity of indolence that is currently polluting our literary culture.” Wait, there’s more. “Some people want to say the review was over the top,” said Giraldi. “Let’s keep in mind, over the top is the only way to conquer a mountain, and I was confronted with an Everest of awfulness.” Giraldi said he felt compelled to call out Ohlin. “Silence is not the answer. If you’re fearful of the epithets ‘elitist’ or ‘snob,’ then you’re just going to be another feckless component of capitulation.” If it’s any consolation to Ohlin, Giraldi is the author of one novel, “Busy Monsters,” and though The New York Times gave it a generally positive review, The Boston Globe panned it.

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